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House training rabbits, a ferret with bad breath and a bald cat – your pet questions answered!

Q: I’M planning on taking my dog to the beach this bank holiday, am I right in thinking all dogs can swim?

A: Many dogs love having a good splash around, but you should never assume your dog can swim. All dogs have to learn to swim just like us. Some breeds are naturally better swimmers, but other breeds (such as corgis and pugs) are not. The sea’s tides and currents can be dangerous to inexperienced swimmers (animal or human!), so if your dog isn’t used to swimming then the sea is not the best place to start. Find somewhere with still, shallow water to make sure your dog doesn’t get out of its depth. 

Q: My rabbit doesn’t seem to like cold weather, so I’m thinking of keeping him indoors over the winter. Can I train him so he doesn’t have to stay in his hutch?

A: Rabbits are a lot more intelligent than many people realise and it is indeed possible to house-train them. Before you start training, choose and prepare the training area. A small room without carpet is a good place to start the training and make sure its litter box is properly prepared. When you first let your bunny into the training area, stay in the room. When your rabbit leaves droppings on the floor, immediately put both bunny and the droppings in the litter box and give positive encouragement. Put the litter box in the place they want to use as their toilet and let the litter box stay a little dirty while the rabbit is learning. If you keep it too clean, the rabbit will think that it’s not supposed to use it. Keep repeating until eventually he learns where to do his business. 

Q: We have a female cat who over grooms herself to the point of baldness and bleeding. The vet has treated her for fleas and given antihistamines, but to no avail. Any suggestions? 

A: There are many reasons why a cat will groom excessively, and one reason is stress. Has anything has changed in her life recently? Pets can find changes to their environment, such as a new family member, the disappearance of a companion (human or pet) or even redecoration, difficult to cope with. Changes to their daily routine can also have an impact. I would take your cat back to your vet and mention any changes that could possibly be affecting her. They may suggest using something like a pheromone diffuser – natural scents that are undetectable to humans but can have a calming effect for animals. 

Q: My ferret, JoJo, has had bad breath for a while, but has now stopped eating and is occasionally being sick. What could be wrong with him?

A: Vomiting and lack of appetite in ferrets can be caused by a number of different problems including dental disease, sudden dietary changes, an intestinal blockage or possibly a tumour. Stress is another potential cause. You need to take JoJo to see your vet as soon as possible to find out the cause. These conditions can be serious, so get JoJo examined and find out what treatment is needed.

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